I’ve had this buried with a stack of books for almost fifteen years. Everytime I picked it up I looked at the cover and put it back. Just shows you really can’t judge a book by its cover. This is an excellent book and I’m glad I finally dug into it.
There’s a witch and magic involved but those elements are handled so well and are such an integral part of the presentation even non Fantasy fans will appreciate how de Lint put it all together. This is a Fantasy without elves, dragons, ogres and other staples of the genre.
This is two books in one. English folk musician Janey Little is taking a break from touring and staying with her grandfather in a seaside village in Cornwall called Mousehole. She finds a manuscript called “The Little Country” in an old trunk in the attic. It’s by her favorite author, William Dunthorn, an old friend of her grandfather. Only one copy was ever published.
He tells Janey he was sworn to secrecy about it. Now things start happening. A woman shows up demanding the book and later a man breaks into the house and tries to steal it. Janey’s visiting ex- boyfriend Felix stops him. The man gets away and the book is intact.
John Madden heads a group called the Order of the Gray Dove. The inner circle is a small group of rich businessmen. Madden is obsessed with getting the book. There’s a secret it contains and he’ll do anything to get it…even if he doesn’t know exactly what it is.
Madden has the power to bend people to his will. He thinks Michael Bett is the reincarnation of Aleister Crowley and he sends him to Mousehole to get the book no matter what it takes. Bett is a psycho who gets off on killing people.
Alternating with the storyline is the book itself. It’s about young Joni Shepard who lives in a brothel with her aunt. She spends a lot of time with Denzil who surrounds himself with animals. She wants to uncover the race known as the Smalls, a group of tiny people. Jodi wants to keep the memory of magic alive. Her major adversary is the Widow Pender, a witch.
The underlying theme is the magic of books and music. The Bett character adds an element of horror in the Janey storyline while the witch does the same for the Jodi sections.
The book is very impressive and holds your attention throughout its six hundred plus pages. I’ve purposely left out a lot of the characters so as not to spoil the narrative. I’m not a big fan of the Fantasy genre but this is defintely an exception. It was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 1992. The winner was Robert McCammon for “Boy’s Life.”
The paperback edition has a lot better cover and I would have read it a lot sooner if the hardcover had been the same.